The Best Router Settings for Home Networks

Optimize your router to get the best internet connection

What to Know

  • Where you place your router can impact the strength of your internet connection.
  • You can optimize your Wi-Fi settings, add guest networks, use MAC filters, and switch between WPA and WPA2 connections.
  • Taking specific safety measures will prevent intruders from accessing your home's internet connection.

This article will explain how to optimize your router setting for optimal speed and performance, and how these settings will minimize your security risks.

How Do I Optimize My Router Settings?

These steps will show you how to select your best router settings. It's assumed you've already purchased the right router for your particular internet needs.

Router Placement 

Where you place your router has a significant impact on your home's connectivity. Walls and floors impede your Wi-Fi connection, so find an ideal location in the center of your home in an open space in order to provide coverage to each of the home’s internet users.

If you have a home office or a gaming room, it may be best to place your router closer to the areas where you'll need the strongest, most reliable internet connection.

You may also want to consider the possibility of a wired connection if you need a lot of bandwidth—for example, if you frequently stream or play games online. Connections over ethernet will almost always be faster than Wi-Fi connections, but connecting a computer with an ethernet cable to a distant router can be tricky and less convenient should you need to move the computer.

Choosing a Frequency

If you have a dual-band Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 router, you can choose if you'd like to connect to either a 2.4 GHz or a 5 GHz band. Tri-band routers come with an extra 5 GHz band, which you can dedicate to video streaming or gaming. 

Compared to 2.4 GHz, a 5 GHz connection is faster but works better in short ranges. A 2.4 GHz band connection travels further but may experience interference or congestion. Typically, the 2.4 GHz band is more useful for low-intensity internet activities, like browsing. The 5 GHz band works better when you need a much faster connection—for example, if you’re using the internet to stream HD video, play online video games or download large files.

Don't be confused by the similarly named 5G and 5 GHz, Here are the differences between 5G and 5 GHz.

Configuring Quality of Service (QoS)

The quality of service (QoS) on your network allows you to prioritize apps. In other words, you can choose which online activities are most important to you and give them priority over other services. 

Navigate to the traffic monitoring section of your router's settings, turn on QoS and select the online services (i.e., gaming, streaming, etc.) you want to prioritize.

You’ll want to configure this setting based on how you use the internet most often, as earmarking bandwidth for certain uses can make unprioritized uses much slower.

For example, if you use your internet primarily to stream HD video content, you can take advantage of the QoS settings that prioritize streaming services. However, you may notice that you download files slower or have a less reliable connection while playing online games if you’re also streaming video at the same time.

Changing Your Router’s DNS Server

The servers that route your internet requests don’t understand domain names. Instead, they use numeric IP addresses—like 157.166.226.25, the IPv4 address for news network CNN’s website. 

Using these addresses for navigation wouldn’t be practical (because who could remember the IP addresses for their favorite sites?), so routers instead use the Domain Name System (or DNS) to translate between domain names and IP addresses. 

Most home networks use the DNS server provided by their ISP. Your router sends this server the domain names you enter into your browser or navigate to, and the DNS server interacts with other servers to find and verify the IP addresses for those domain names. 

While the DNS server provided by your IP should work fine, it is sometimes a good idea to change your router’s settings to use another DNS server—for example, if you find that your IP-provided DNS is slow, poorly configured, or serving ads.

Popular choices for alternative DNS servers include Google’s Public DNS, Cisco-owned OpenDNS, and Cloudflare’s DNS. Each of these DNS servers is free and intended to provide a secure and private way to browse the web. 

All three should be equally good options regardless of how you use the internet—you’ll probably see the same changes to speed whether you stream, game online, or just browse.

How Can I Speed up My Wi-Fi Router?

After ensuring you've completed the steps listed above, there are a few more steps you can take to speed up your internet connection. 

Be sure you have the antennas positioned correctly. Try pointing them in vertical and horizontal directions to see which gives you the best connectivity. It may take some trial and error when aiming your antennas.

Always use a 5 GHz band connection if you're looking to get the most speed out of your internet. A 2.4 GHz band connection will provide a slower but more reliable connection.

While this isn't in the spirit of being wireless, you could hardwire one (or more) your device to the router using an ethernet cable. Using an ethernet cable is typically faster and more reliable than just a standard wireless network, but it's, of course, not wireless. This is a good solution for devices that don't move about, like a gaming console or a TV.

Which Network Mode Is Best for a Router?

You should set up your router only to use a WPA2 connection, which is more secure and can improve your speeds. Log into your router's settings and look around for a phrase like "mode," "wireless mode," or "802.11 mode."

While there are similarities between a WPA and WPA2 connection, the overall performance impact of using WPA2 is negligible, making it a viable option for you if you're looking for a home network connection. WPA2 comes with benefits, such as improved security.  These benefits will be valuable no matter how you use the internet.

How Do I Optimize My Wi-Fi Settings?

There are a few steps you should take to optimize your Wi-Fi settings. Start by first changing the default username and password for your home network. 

Many routers will come with a username and password of "admin," so you want to make your SSID name unique. Your password should have capital letters, numbers, and special characters to prevent someone from easily guessing it and then gaining access to your network. This is a general safety practice for all internet users.

You can also set your IP address for your router by changing the last handful of digits in the IP address field. This will make your network more secure, and you'll be able to use that address to configure your router in the future.

Adding a Mac Filter

You can also enable MAC address filtering, which is a unique identifier on each Wi-Fi device. MAC address filtering allows you to block traffic coming from unknown sources. Read below to configure MAC address filtering.

  1. Go to your router’s admin website.

  2. Log into the website using your username or password or the default ones written on the router itself.

  3. Select the Mac Filtering option (depending on your router, it might be listed as “MAC Filter,” “Network Filter,” “Network Access,” etc.).

  4. Select Add a new MAC filter.

  5. Type in the MAC address found on your computer’s About section in the settings.

  6. Save your changes.

  7. Turn on MAC filtering.

Depending on your router, you may need to use your an app via your mobile device to make these kinds of changes.

FAQ
  • How do I log in to my router?

    To log in to your router and change the settings, enter the router's IP address in a web browser, then enter the username and password. The default username and password can usually be found on the back or bottom of the router.

  • What are WEP and WPA?

    WEP and WPA are encryption protocols that protect the information you send and receive over a wireless network. Your network should use the WPA3 protocol for existing connections, particularly when transmitting confidential data.

  • How do I enable my router's built-in firewall?

    To enable your router's firewall, log in to your router and look for an entry labeled Firewall (or similar). Select Enable > Save > Apply and wait while the router restarts. Add firewall rules and access control lists to meet your security needs.

  • How do I connect two routers on a home network?

    You can connect two routers on your network using an Ethernet cable. If both routers are wireless and will support a subnetwork, set the first router to channel 1 or 6 and the second to channel 11. Alternatively, set up the new router as a switch or access point by connecting the routers and updating the IP configuration.

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